• Indian Relations During the Colonial Period

    We know that the Wampanoag Indians taught the early colonists how to grow food and survive in North America, but not all Indians welcomed the colonists. Many of them viewed the colonists with suspicion, rightfully so. European and Indian cultures were very different and clashes were probably inevitable.

    Europeans believed in the idea of owning and selling land. The Indians believed that the land couldn’t be owned, bought, or sold. They believed the Earth was for everyone to share and use respectfully, never taking more than one needed. As Europeans arrived, they laid claim to the land. Indians were no longer allowed to hunt on their old hunting grounds. Their way of life was slowly being destroyed.

    Indian Relations During the Colonial Period
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    Fun Facts

    • Spanish missionaries came with explorers and built missions in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California, and other states. They wanted to convert the Indians to Christianity. Sometimes Indians were forced to convert to the new religion. They were also forced to work on farms that grew food for the missions.
    • In general, French explorers had good relationships with the Indians. They didn’t make them slaves or try to take their land. Instead, the French often traded tools, guns, and blankets for the Indians’ furs. French missionaries were usually kind to the Indians. The Natchez Indians were not friends with the French. In fact, the French eventually wiped out the entire tribe.
    • Conflict in New England led to the Pequot War in 1635, when the Pequot Indians fought settlers in the Connecticut River Valley. The Indians were eventually killed. Forty years later, a Wampanoag chief named Metacomet or King Phillip led several tribes in battle against the English. More than 600 colonists and 3,000 Indians were killed.
    • In 1622, the Powhatan Indians killed 300 settlers near Jamestown, Virginia. In 1624, King James I made Virginia a royal colony and appointed a governor. This meant that England now officially owned and ruled Virginia and Indians had few rights.

    Vocabulary

    1. Suspicion: a feeling or hunch. The Indians were suspicious that the colonists would bring them harm.
    2. Clash: a conflict or fight
    3. Inevitable: bound to happen; unavoidable

    Questions and Answers

    Question: Why were the Indians unable to defeat the colonists?

    Answer: The Indians lacked central government, which made it hard for them to work as an organized group, while the English had a very organized military. The main reason for the Indians’ defeat in battle, though, was their lack of firearms. They fought with spears, knives, and bow and arrows. The English were well-equipped with guns.

    European diseases like measles, smallpox and cholera, swept through Indian tribes, killing up to 90 percent of the people. Indians passed down their knowledge, culture and traditions through oral traditions (telling stories). When elders died, no one was left to tell the stories.

    Learn More

    Visit Colonial Williamsburg to learn more about Native American culture.

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